The spatial distribution of human immunoglobulin genes within the nucleus: evidence for gene topography independent of cell type and transcriptional activity

Hum Genet. 1997 Oct;100(5-6):588-94. doi: 10.1007/s004390050558.


The three-dimensional positioning of immunoglobulin (Ig) genes within the nucleus of human cells was investigated using in situ hybridization and confocal microscopy. The visualization of heavy and light chain genes in B-lymphoid cells showed that the three Ig genes are differentially and nonrandomly distributed in different nuclear subvolumes: the kappa genes were found to be preferentially confined to an outer nuclear volume, whereas the gamma and lambda genes consistently occupied more central positions within the nucleus, the lambda genes being more interior when compared with the gamma genes. The data further show that these overall topographical distributions are independent of gene transcriptional activity and are conserved in different cell types. Although subtle gene movements within those defined topographical regions cannot be excluded by this study, the results indicate that tissue specificity of gene expression is not accompanied by drastic changes in gene nuclear topography, rather suggesting that gene organization within the nucleus may be primarily dependent on structural constraints imposed on the respective chromosomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • B-Lymphocytes
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry*
  • Centromere
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 2 / genetics
  • DNA / analysis
  • Genes
  • Genes, Immunoglobulin*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin gamma-Chains / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin kappa-Chains / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin lambda-Chains / genetics
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcr
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid / genetics
  • Retinoic Acid Receptor alpha
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Immunoglobulin gamma-Chains
  • Immunoglobulin kappa-Chains
  • Immunoglobulin lambda-Chains
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RARA protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Retinoic Acid
  • Retinoic Acid Receptor alpha
  • DNA
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • BCR protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcr